There have been several lawsuits brought by employees against McDonald's and other fast-food chains alleging that they were sexually harassed at work and that nothing was done about it when they reported the incident(s). One of the McDonald's employee litigants alleges that she reported to her supervisor that her co-worker was sexually propositioning her, engaging in unwanted sexual touching and showing her pornography on his phone, and their response was to reduce her hours.
Many employees at fast-food restaurants are high school students working at their first job. As many as 1 out of 2 women and 1 out of 5 men will experience sexual harassment at work at some point in their career and those between the ages of 15-25 are especially vulnerable. It can be traumatizing to witness or experience sexual harassment at any age and this type of experience can adversely impact a teen’s mental health and vocational aspirations. It is unlikely that a teen would know how to appropriately respond to sexual harassment by a manager, co-worker or a customer or where they can go for help.
Most workplaces where teens work, including McDonald’s, have an anti-harassment policy that outlines what behaviours are considered inappropriate and how employees can report incidents of harassment. These are often included as part of a hiring/training package that is provided to an employee on their first day. However, how likely is it that a teen, or any other employee for that matter, will actually take the time to read these policies and if they do, will understand?
All employers, and especially those with young and vulnerable employees, should consider offering mandatory harassment prevention workshops to all employees and managers. The Legal Clinic and many other community legal clinics across Ontario are offering free virtual workshops for employees and employers about how to prevent and address harassment in the workplace. If you would like more information about these free workshops please contact The Legal Clinic at 613-264-7153, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.tlcshiwproject.com.